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EI when you’re self-employed

If you’re self-employed, you can still access EI Special Benefits. 

As a self-employed Canadian (or permanent resident) you can have access to EI Special Benefits if you register with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. While this EI measure extends certain EI benefits to self-employed individuals, enrollment is completely voluntary.

 

What are Special Benefits?

Special benefits are the EI programs aimed at workers who take time off work due to specific life events:

  • Maternity benefits, which are available to birth mothers only and cover the period surrounding the child’s birth up to a maximum of 15 weeks.
  • Parental benefits, which are available to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for newborn or newly adopted children – these benefits may be taken by either parent or share.
    • Standard parental benefits: can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks at a weekly benefit rate of 55% of the claimant’s earnings.
    • Extended parental benefits: can be paid for a maximum of 61 weeks at a weekly benefit rate of 33% of the claimant’s earnings.
  • Sickness benefits, which may be paid to a person who is unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine (maximum of 15 weeks).
  • Compassionate care benefits, which may be paid to a person who has to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member (or someone who is considered to be like family) who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death (maximum of 26 weeks).
  • Family caregiver benefits, which are available to a family member (or someone who is considered to be like family) who must be away from work to care or support for critically ill or injured family member.
    • Family caregiver benefits for those who have children under the age of 18 years old can be paid for a maximum of 35 weeks.
    • Family caregiver benefits for a sick or ill adult can be paid for a maximum of 15 weeks.

Note:  Self-employed Quebec residents are already covered for maternity and parental benefits through the mandatory Quebec Parental Insurance Program (QPIP) for the Self-Employed, but can choose to participate in the federal program to become eligible for additional sickness, compassionate care, and family caregiver benefits.

Am I considered self-employed?

You are considered self-employed if you:

  • Operate your own business; or
  • Work for a corporation but cannot access EI benefits because you control more than 40% of the corporation’s voting shares; and
  • Are either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
The Cost?
  • You must pay the same EI premiums as any salaried individual.  
  • Because you are self-employed, you will not have to pay the employer's portion of the EI premium. 
  • Official EI premium rates are posted on the Canada Employment Insurance Commission’s website
  • Your EI premiums will be payable based on your self-employed income for the entire year. For example: if you register in June, 2018, your premiums will be calculated on your 2018 income tax and benefit return and will be payable by April 30, 2019.
How do I apply for EI Special Benefits?

As a self-employed individual, you have to register online with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to participate in the EI program, through your My Service Canada Account. Once you receive confirmation that your registration was successful and completed by April 30th the premiums will be based on the previous year’s income tax return, but if completed afterwards your EI premiums will be calculated based on your income tax return for that year.  You have to wait 12 months from the date of your confirmed registration before applying for EI special benefits.

What if I change my mind?

You may cancel within 60 days of registering without incurring any premiums. After the 60-day period, you may still terminate your participation to this program, as long as you’ve never received EI special benefits as a self-employed person.  In other words, after you receive EI special benefits, you will have to continue to pay EI premiums for the entire duration of your self-employed career.  Instructions on how to cancel or terminate your participation are available on your My Service Canada Account.  Please note that termination is not immediate; your participation into the program continues until the end of the calendar year (December 31) in which you filed the notice of termination. 
 

Is this program a good fit for you?

For some, but it’s not beneficial for everyone!  So before opting into this federal program, it’s a good idea to discuss and examine the pros and cons with your accountant or with a CFIB Counsellor to help you make an informed decision.

Visit the program’s guide for an overview of more specific details.